Lawyer: All stupidity of Lukashenko’s ordinances got into new Labour Code

by ganna
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On January 1, 2020, Belarus enacted its new Labour Code. What can Belarusian workers expect from their employers now?

The Charter97.org has talked to Leonid Sudalenko, the legal inspector of the independent REP Trade Union.

“Since January 1, Belarus has its new Labour Code, which many experts treat as the ‘worst in the world’. Why have they used this particular a definition?”

“It’s an absolutely fair definition. And do you know why the Code is so harshly criticized? – Because all the norms of Lukashenko’s so-called ‘temporary’ ordinances, in particular, Ordinance 29 on fixed-term labour contracts, are now enshrined in the Labour Code.”

“Accordingly, for our country, these absurd norms are now not temporary but permanent. That is, the Code has already fixed the employer’s right to conclude fixed-term labour contracts with the employees for the period from one to five years. At our REP Trade Union, we always state that the contract system, as a temporary form of people’s employment, has two problems. Firstly, any employee at any time at the end of the contract, for any subjective reason – say, the employee didn’t like him/her – is thrown out into the street without any explanations. For example, this happened to me once at the ‘Beltransgaz’. Secondly, an employer concludes an employment contract with an employee for the maximum possible period, and turns his employee into a ‘serf’. If during this time, the employee finds a new job, albeit even higher paid, the employer has the right not to let him quit. Under such a contract system, an employee has no right to quit the job on his/her own will. It fact, the employee gets into slavery for five years: in order to quit before the contract expires, he needs the consent of his employer. And the latter wouldn’t give one, saying that ‘he has no workforce.’ And with the current salaries in Belarusian districts, this form of ‘serfdom’ is met more and more often. These two acute problems have now migrated to the new Labour Code, which is why we criticize it so harshly.”

“Even at the time of signing the new Labour Code by Lukashenko, people were indignant at the fact that an employer has now the right to “transfer” (and even to lease out) his employees to another employer. How do you assess this ‘novelty’?”

“Actually, in the literal sense, this norm is not spelled out in this way: that the employer has the right to ‘transfer his employee to another employer.’ An employer has the right, by virtue of ‘justified economic-production reasons,’ to temporarily transfer his employee to some other workplace. Moreover, the employee has the right to disagree and quit.”

“That is, as such, there’s no transfer without the employee’s consent. But since there is such a norm now, in general, it can be interpreted by employers in different ways. Therefore, I want to remind everyone: it is unacceptable if I got a job with one employer, so that I would be transferred without my consent. I emphasize: this norm lies in the plane of the employee’s rights, not duties.”

“Another scandalous point of the new Code: Belarusians are deprived of the right to quit at their own will. How would you comment on this?”

“Yes, this is the same stupidity of the contract system, which has migrated into the Labour Code. This can be avoided, if an employee concludes an indefinite (endless) employment contract, which is almost impossible in our economic conditions, since all the 100% of the working population work under fixed short-term labour contracts. Under this system an employee is really deprived of the right to quit on his/her own will. And this is the same ‘serfdom’, on which I spoke above. But if we achieve the conclusion of indefinite employment contracts with employees, then – please, with a one-month employee’s warning of his employer in writing – that’s all, because in 30 days, the employer’s will is negligible.”

“The new Code has legalized ‘part-time work on vacation’. It turns out that authorities officially recognize that one single salary in Belarus is not enough to feed a worker and his/her family, doesn’t it?”

“I believe that bosses don’t know how to make their workers busy. For example, our ‘Gomselmash’ Plant got completely stopped and went on vacation until January 15. The situation is typical for such huge enterprises, which are unable to sell their products. Therefore, workers are sent to all kinds of vacations, both paid and unpaid. In fact, many enterprises now are unloaded; we fail to create competitive new workplaces, and those existing ones don’t allow workers to maintain their families.”

“Hence, such amendments to the Code arise. And, by the way, these are again those provisions of Lukashenko’s temporary ordinances that have migrated to the new edition of the Labour Code. I have repeatedly said and will repeat again that this simply should not exist. Today, the labour market is open; and Belarusians are likely to go to work to other countries instead of working here for a bowl of soup. People are not satisfied with their ‘work for food’ – just to survive.”

“Back in 2018, leading trade unions of the world put Belarus on the ‘black list’. What’s next? How will the REP Trade Union fight for the rights of Belarusian workers, given the entry of the new Labour Code into force?”

“The REP Trade Union has always consistently fought and will continue fighting, among other things, against the non-standard temporary employment system, and with other provisions of the national labour legislation that worsen the workers’ status. We won’t stop this work now.”

“By and large, we are now carrying out the work instead of the FPB and official trade unions. They are supposed to do this by relying on their territorial structures, which are present everywhere, but do nothing. As a result, Belarus once again falls into the lists of such exotic countries, where they speak about human rights only in a whisper and at night.”

“What, in your opinion, should fair employment relations in Belarus look like? What would you change in the Labour Code in the first place?”

“Of course, it is first of all necessary to remove this shameful contractual hiring system, when the entire economically active population is working under fixed short-term contracts.”

“Imagine: a young specialist, a young man, whose labour contract is renewed every year, simply can’t build his life. He cannot go to the bank and take out a loan, because he doesn’t know whether he will have a job tomorrow. In particular, he can’t take a loan to buy an apartment. He can’t plan his life for more than 2-3 years into the future, because at any moment he may find himself in the street.”

“This is the main problem; and it must be solved. I think that once a new government will come; and all this will be brought in line with civilized norms. International standards in the field of labour that exist in all civilized countries should prevail here; and on the contrary – all these rudiments of the Soviet era that have been transposed from Lukashenko’s ordinances into the Labour Code, should be removed from it once and for all. This is my position.”